Tag Archives: Government

The Eclipse Was Bigger Than Politics

25 Aug

Earlier this week, we were in the path of the total solar eclipse, and it was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. When the moon completely blocked the sun, there was a ring in the sky. However, that was not the only fascinating part of the event. There was a 360 degree sunset. Crickets began to chirp because they thought it was night. Deer came out from their hiding places. For more than two minutes, we were in a different world.

However, those were just part of the experience.

We were invited by a local business owner to watch the event from his office. He hosted a cookout with all kinds of great food. There were games to play while we waited for the eclipse. A DJ play music that had a certain theme. Every song was celestial. When the sun went completely out, he played “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd. Of course, the soundtrack was not complete without “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler.

Dozens of people had their special glasses and used them to look into the sky. During the party, I was struck by our differences. Represented in the crowd were different races, religions and socio-economic backgrounds. No matter our experiences or ideas, we were all experiences the same feelings, and we were experiencing them together.

Lately, we read and hear a lot about our differences, but, for a few minutes, we were in a crowd that was united by an amazons sight.

When the total eclipse ended, I jumped on to Twitter to find out what people were saying about their eclipse experience. That is when I saw that some people were being snarky about it and trying to put a political spin on it.

The sun is even hiding from the president.

Hey Trump, God turned the lights out on you.

I could list a lot, but that is not the point of this post.

The point is that some things are above politics.

I do not care who likes the president and who does not like the president. Frankly, I do not care what people say. However, I care when people take an event like this and use it to create some witty comment. Yes, they probably received a bunch of likes, but they missed the reality of the situation.

There is a lot going on in our world, and a lot of people have differing opinions. Earlier this week, we experienced an event that brought a lot of people together. In our crowd, I am certain that different people had different thoughts about the president and everything else. However, none of that matter. We were experiencing something together that made us all equal, and that equality showed us how small we really are. We are people living in one country on a small planet in the middle of a big universe.

We get bogged down in politics, but some things are bigger than all of that. People should not diminish it with some witty Twitter post about what is wrong about the world.

Movie Wisdom – Fred Thompson Edition

2 Nov

Fred Thompson first gained national attention as counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee, In fact, some credit him for coming up with Tennessee Senator Howard Baker’s questions, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

A few years later, he represented Marie Ragghianti during Tennessee’s own political scandal. I will not go into the details, but a movie was made about the episode. My dad, who was involved in state politics, has said nothing in the movie was true, but it launched Thompson’s second career as an actor. In Marie, he played himself.

As the years progressed, Thompson had one foot in Hollywood and one in Washington. He appeared in films and television shows and represented Tennessee in the Senate. He also had a short-lived campaign for president.

Earlier, news broke that Fred Thompson passed away. In his honor, these are some words of wisdom that can be found in his movies.Fred Thompson

From No Way Out

Order some breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day.

From The Hunt for Red October

Some things don’t react well to bullets.

It is wise to study the ways of ones adversary.

The hard part about playing chicken is knowin’ when to flinch.

From Days of Thunder

Rubbin, son, is racin’.

Loose is fast, and on the edge of out of control.

Control is an illusion.

From Die Hard 2

Progress peaked with frozen pizza.

From Necessary Roughness

Eternal vigilance is the price of integrity.

From Cape Fear

If you hold on to the past, you die a little each day.

From Thunderheart

There is a way to live with the earth and a way not to live with the earth.

From Secretariat

You never know how far you can run unless you run.


Stuck in the Middle

24 Oct

I stay away from politics on this blog for a couple of reasons. First, I think my personal politics is a private matter. When I go into a voting booth, no one is allowed in there with me, and there is a reason for that. Second, no one really cares what I think nor should they care what I think. That is my biggest problem with celebrities who spout their political philosophies. I do not want to know. Third, there are probably people from all political spectrums who find their way to this blog, and I see no reason to make them mad.

With all of that being typed, this post is about politics. Specifically, it is about a couple of conversations from earlier today that I saw as a microcosm of the state of politics.Stooges

This afternoon, I was at work and met someone in the hallway. We had been talking for a few minutes when I was asked if I watched Hillary Clinton at the Benghazi hearings. I said that I did not watch it but followed some of it on Twitter. That is when the other person started talking about how it was terrible. The committee did not hit her hard enough. They should have gone after Clinton for the terrible job she did as Secretary of State. After all, Richard Nixon erased 18 minutes of a tape and was forced out of office. She deleted 30,000 emails and nobody cares.

After our conversation, I walked outside and headed toward my car. That is when another colleague walked up and started talking. We had been talking for a few minutes when I was asked if I watched Hillary Clinton at the Benghazi hearings. I said that I did not watch it but followed some of it on Twitter. That is when the other person started talking about how it was terrible. The committee treated her too harshly. It was sickening and was the worse thing that has happened since Joseph McCarthy was holding hearings.

When I got into my car, I started wondering what just happened. I talked to two people in a matter of minutes, and they had completely different opinions of the same event. These two people have similar backgrounds and perform similar jobs. Yet, they saw the hearings from polar opposite perspectives.

People have always disagreed politically, but it shocked me to have those hear those opinions in that short of a timeframe. Then, I realized that I had experienced our political atmosphere. It is not that people disagree. It is that people think those on the other side are evil, stupid, crazy and are driving our country over a cliff. That is why nothing can get done. Many people talk about how politicians need to negotiate and meet in the middle. However, politicians know that the conservative and liberal bases do not want that to happen.

I consider myself to be someone in the middle. On some issues, I am more conservative. On other issues, I am more liberal. Today, I found myself really in the middle as I listened to people espouse opinions from both wings.

Which one was correct? I have no idea. However, I bet the truth is somewhere in the middle. More people interested in politics should realize that.

D.C. Road Trip – A Lot of Statues and One Chandelier

23 Jul

We rose bright and early on Thursday because we had an appointment to keep. We were scheduled to meet at the office of our congressional representative, Diane Black, and a member of her staff was going to lead us on a tour of the Capitol. After a short cab ride, we found ourselves at the entrance of one of the several congressional office buildings. I was expecting a long wait through security, but it was easier than I expected. There was a metal detector, but that was about it. Heck, I thought it was harder to get the elevator to work at our hotel.

From the office, we made our way through the tunnel to the Capitol. People were hustling and busting, and I realized something. The vast majority were in their 20s. I came to the conclusion that our government is actually run by young people who have the drive and energy to do it.

The tour of the Capitol was awesome and was one of my favorite parts of the trip. We saw scars from where the British burned the building during the War of 1812. We also saw a chandelier that began its life in a whorehouse before being moved to a Methodist church. Finally, it made its way full circle to our nation’s Capitol. It started in a place where they screw people for their money and ended up in the same type of place.image-13

The old chambers of the House and Senate were also cool. I wanted to see the place where Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was almost beaten to death, and, suddenly, there we were.

The rotunda was interesting, but I really liked the statues scattered throughout the building. Each state submits two statues of people who are important to them. There were a lot of presidents, but there was also Helen Keller and a Native American leader. Tennessee’s entries are Andrew Jackson and John Sevier, two men who were not fond of each other.

However, there were also statues of other people who were important in Tennessee history.

Texas offered a statue of Sam Houston, who served as governor of Tennessee. Also, his first law office was in Lebanon.image-14

Nebraska had a statue of William Jennings Bryan, who died in Tennessee after serving as the prosecutor in the Scopes Monkey Trial.image-15

Without a doubt, the highlight of the visit was sitting in the gallery and watching the House of Representatives at work. As we looked down upon them, a few things went through my mind.

The room is a lot smaller than I imagined.

This is the room where Franklin Roosevelt made the “Infamy Speech.”

The House of Representatives is chaotic. We watched them take two votes, and hardly anyone was sitting down. They were walking around. They were standing in front of the speaker’s stand and talking. Kids were on the floor. Staff members were in and out. It was in complete disarray.

Most members of the House are anonymous. Most people probably know their own representative and others in their state, but that is about it. Heck, we sit close to the Kentucky border, and I could not tell you who any of their people are. Except for a few in leadership positions, no one really knows who these people are.

After watching them for a while, we decided to walk down the hall and watch the Senate. This is when we discovered why our government cannot get anything done. We had to leave our belongings in a room before going to the House chamber. However, we could not get to the Senate without first going back to get our stuff and turning it in again at the Senate holding room.

Understand? Me neither. We had to go back downstairs; get our stuff; turn it in at a different location; then go to the Senate. Ridiculous.

Then, we got to the Senate chamber and watched one guy give a speech to an empty room.

We left the Capitol and made our way to a sandwich shop for lunch. Then, we walked across the street to the Library of Congress.

Did I say walk? This is when we realized that walking to everything was not going to be as easy as we thought. The Mall is a huge expanse, and things that look close on the map may not be close in reality. With a busy morning behind us, we decided to take a cab to the hotel and rest up before dinner, which was at a cool South American restaurant. My wife and I both had mojitos with huge pieces of sugar cane sticking out of them. Nothing like a drink with a hunk of wood-like stuff.

After dinner, we walked to the Mall to see the monuments at night. We had heard that this is the best time to look at them. Several things stuck with me.

People play kickball and softball around the Washington Monument. I had never thought of it as a big recreational area, but that is what it is.

The World War II Memorial is amazing.image-18

The water in front of the Lincoln Memorial is huge, but it is also where Captain America met Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Tons of people want to see the Lincoln Memorial and will risk their lives for it. We saw one woman wreck a Segway. However, I can understand why. It is an inspiring experience.image-16

The Vietnam Memorial is behind a bathroom. We lost the people we were with when we thought they went to the bathroom. Actually, they were going to the Wall.

The Korean War Memorial is the one I most wanted to see, and I was not disappointed. Seeing the soldier statues glowing in the night was a haunting experience.image-17

With that, we caught a cab back to the hotel. My stepdaughter went to the room while my wife and I hung out in the lobby to make sure the rest of our gang made it back.

Fortune Everlasting

24 Jun

The other day, I was sitting on the couch at parents’ house and picked up a copy of Fortune 500, the annual list of America’s largest businesses. Like most people, I look at the top companies, but I also look for other things. How many are based in Tennessee? How many are new additions? How many dropped out? There is a lot of interesting information once you start digging in.

This year, I noticed something else. It was not that long ago that the History Channel put out a program called The Men Who Built America about the big industrialists of the late 1800s. It covered Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford. There were others, but those guys were the main characters.

As I thumbed through the Fortune 500, I thought back to those men and wondered how many of their companies are on the 2014 list. Obviously, Ford Motor Company is going to be on there. Heck, everyone has seen a Ford vehicle going up and down the road. But, what about those other guys?

Cornelius Vanderbilt was into ships and railroads. In the old days, his companies dominated, but I could not find any of them on the current list.

Andrew Carnegie made his fortune with Carnegie Steel. He sold out and spent the rest of his life giving money away. Carnegie could do that because he sold the company to J.P. Morgan, and this is where things get interesting.JP Morgan

Morgan learned investment banking from his father and took it to a new level. He bought Carnegie Steel and merged it with another mill to form U.S. Steel, which currently ranks 166th on the list. Morgan also owned General Electric, currently the 9th largest company in the United States. However, that is not all. He was also on the ground floor of American Telephone and Telegraph. We know it better as AT+T, and it ranks 11th.

This means that J.P. Morgan owned three corporations that currently rank in the Fortune 500. But, there is more. J.P. Morgan Chase and Company is the 18th largest business in the country.

Then, there is the story of John D. Rockefeller, who owns Standard Oil. He created a trust system, which allowed him to controlled the vast majority of the world’s oil supply. The United States government, fearful of an important resource being controlled by one person, busted the trust into smaller companies. Being a major stockholder in the new companies, Rockefeller became the richest man in the world. In other words, the federal government really showed him.John D Rockefeller

Anyway, a few of those smaller companies still exist. Exxon Mobil ranks 2nd. Chevron ranks 3rd. Marathon comes in 25th.

The History Channel called them The Men Who Built America. Others call them robber barons for their ruthless business techniques. Regardless of what one might think of them, there is no doubt that they played major roles in the American economy. What is more, they continue to play major roles many decades after their deaths.

The Power of Dean

4 May

This week, I attended the “Power of 10” conference, an event where leaders from the ten counties that make up the Greater Nashville area get together and talk about the future.Power of Ten

It is a way to get people working together when they make decisions about where their communities are headed. It is a noble enterprise, but we cannot get towns in the same county to work together. Getting different counties to work together is almost impossible.

The room was filled with mayors, planners, members of city councils and assorted other pillars of their respective communities. I was there because I needed some training hours as a member of the planning commission. Unfortunately, I was not there on time because of work. That meant that I walked into the back of a packed house with a program that had already begun.

As I stood at the top of the stairs and scanned for an empty seat, an usher eased up to me and said that I could not stand there. No kidding. I explained that I did not intend to stand for the next four hours and was merely looking for a place to go. She brought to mind the ushers at the Ryman Auditorium. It is one of the great music halls of the world, but the ushers take their jobs way too seriously. Give someone a vest and a flashlight and they think they can rule the world. It is a power trip. I lovingly call them “Seat Nazis.”

I got away from the transfer from the Ryman and made my way to the other entrance. I did not want to crawl over anyone and was looking for an end seat. There was one left on the second row. I grew up in the Baptist church. Baptists do not sit on the second row. We hang around in the back.

I made the long trek to the bottom of the auditorium and immediately got a text saying, “It’s about time you showed up.” A friend was sitting six rows behind me. We texted for a while, but I learned a few things, too.

I missed much of the presentation that I walked in on, but the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation gave an informative presentation. He also told a few jokes.

We took a break and made our way to the concourse. There were a lot of people glad-handing and networking. I knew a few, but, for the most part, it seemed like a boring crowd. I backed up against a wall and just watched them. Finally, I decided to make my way inside and faced a tough decision. Should I go back to the seat that I hated, or should I steal someone else’s seat? I decided to be nice and go back to the second row.

This time, an elderly man sat in front of me, and he must have bathed in Brut. The smell was overwhelming. Now, I was packed into the front and lost in a fog on cologne. As people from different departments made their presentations, I was slowly dying. I looked around for any escape and immediately saw it.

The balcony had been opened. When I arrived, it was roped off. Now, there were about eight people sitting there. They were spread out with their feet propped up. The air was clean. I had to get there. Karl Dean, the mayor of Nashville, was going to speak, but I knew I could hear him just as good from the last row as I could from the second row.

Up the stairs I went with the hope that I would not get stopped by the recently transferred “Seat Nazi.” Maybe the people had snuck through, and I would be caught. I made it up the stairs and turned into the balcony. An usher was guarding the door but had his back to me. This was the moment of truth. He turned to me, and…

It was Dean, an old friend of mine. He used to work with Larry, the same guy who ordered the cheese sticks and spent a weekend with me in Cleveland, Ohio. Dean is a University of Tennessee fanatic like the rest of us, and I had not seen him in years.

Now, I had another choice. Do I listen to Karl Dean, or do I stand outside and talk with Usher Dean? It was an easy decision. I knew that I would learn a lot more from Usher Dean than some politician trying to spin his agenda. While the mayor of Nashville spoke to hundreds of people, Usher Dean and I had a great conversation in the hallway. In my mind, he knew a lot more than anyone who took the stage.

What is the Power of Dean? Well, that depends on which Dean you are talking about.

Listeria – In Memoriam

31 Jan

This is the season of awards shows, and people tune in for all kinds of reasons. To see who is going to win what. To see who is going to wear what. To see who is going to say what. I watch the shows like everyone else does, but I am looking for something else. I am fascinated by the “In Memoriam” part. It is interesting to see how they are going to pay tribute to the people who have passed away in the past year. Who will get the most applause? Who will be shown in a film clip rather than in a photograph? Who passed away that I did not know about? Who will be left out?

That last question is always the most controversial. It would be impossible to show everyone, and difficult decisions have to be made. Inevitably, people are going to get mad. I even wrote a post about people who I thought were mistakenly left out of an Academy Awards presentation.

With all of that being said, I have decided to provide my own “In Memoriam” for the people who passed away in 2013. To accomplish this, I bought a copy of Farewell, a LIFE publication honoring the deceased. It is filled with people who I know a lot about and people who I have never heard of. As the great decision maker of who should be honored in the SBI World, there will some left out just like on the awards show. However, these are the ones who I want to remember.Candle

You will have to imagine the music in the background.

In no particular order:

Margaret Thatcher – The Iron Lady. I read somewhere that the Steely Dan song “Peg” was about her. I wonder if that is true.

Helen Thomas – the White House reporter who covered every president from Kennedy to Obama.

David Frost – the interviewer who gained widespread fame for his sessions with Richard Nixon.

Dr. Joyce Brothers – the television counselor who paved the way for all of the others. She got her start on television by winning The $64,000 Question.Joyce Brothers

Roger Ebert – the movie critic who gave us “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”.

Annette Funicello – the original sweetheart of the Mouseketeers. She also became the sweetheart of beach movies. My dad and I saw her perform at the Super Bowl.

Esther Williams – the champion swimmer who became the queen of water-based movie extravaganzas. She was one of my mom’s favorites.

Jean Stapleton – the actress who served as the foil for Archie Bunker.Jean Stapleton

Bonnie Franklin – the mother on One Day at a Time, one of the many socially conscious sitcoms of the 1970s.

Karen Black – the actress who was in one of my favorite movies, Nashville.

Jonathan Winters – the genius comedian who is a hoot in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Harry Reems – the porn star who became a household name after appearing in Deep Throat, one of the most famous porn movies ever made.Harry Reems

Bobby “Blue” Bland – the blues singer who recorded, in my mind, the definitive version of “Stormy Monday”.

Patty Andrews – the last surviving member of The Andrews Sisters. If you have ever heard “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, then you have heard them at their best.

Patti Page – the singer of “The Tennessee Waltz”, one of my state’s official songs.

George Jones – the Possum. In my opinion, he is the greatest country singer to ever live. Unfortunately, his life was not as smooth as his voice.George Jones 2

J.J. Cale – the writer of “After Midnight”, “Cocaine” and a bunch of other great songs.

Lou Reed – the iconic singer who led The Velvet Underground and invited everyone to walk on the wild side.

Stan Musial – the Man. He was one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

Earl Weaver – the baseball manager best known for being thrown out of games. He was also a lover of the Earl Weaver Special, the three run home run.Earl Weaver

Art Donovan – the Baltimore Colt who gained more fame from his appearances of NFL Films.

Pat Summerall – the voice of the NFL who was also a fair placekicker.

Elmore Leonard – the writer who could create great characters and put great words in their mouths. His work was the inspiration for Justified, currently my favorite television show.Elmore Leonard

That is the completion of this blog’s “In Memoriam tribute”. Who would you put on the list?